In 1999, a father walked by me as I was nursing my newborn son at the Portland Japanese Garden and pointed me out to his children, stating: “That is one of the most beautiful things in the world.” As a first-time mother, it meant a lot to me—that he could see beauty in something I took for granted and even hesitated doing in public. My sculpture Mother Tree seeks to visually portray my subsequent reflections about that chance encounter. This sculpture serves as a symbol of the vulnerability, strength and sense of community I feel as a mother.
The seven-foot tall handmade paper dress/tree features single strands of thread which extend from the bodice of the dress, representing mother’s milk, and cascade to the floor, transforming via crochet into roots which pile up, filling the surrounding space as a tree’s roots would fill the ground beneath it. The transformation from dress to tree and root to soil symbolizes the mother as a provider and nurturer throughout human development.
Mother Tree is a community project which debuted in February 2010 at the Portland Building installation space in Portland, Oregon. Hundreds of people viewed the project as they passed by it on their way to work; over two hundred sent crocheted roots which attached to the tree; and another hundred crocheters, feminists, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, engineers, children, and artists joined me in the space to crochet roots on site. Since then, Mother Tree has traveled to venues around the United States.
In 2023, Mother Tree was acquired by the Museum of Motherhood in St. Petersburg, Florida.